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A Look Inside Teamlab's Psychedelic New Melbourne Exhibition 'Reversible Rotation'

The art collective behind Tokyo's Digital Art Museum has brought a new exhibition of four impressive digital works to Melbourne.
By Libby Curran
October 07, 2019
By Libby Curran
October 07, 2019

Made up of mathematicians, programmers, architects, animators and engineers, Tokyo-based art collective Teamlab has made quite a splash on the world stage. Their famed Borderless Digital Art Museum — which launched in Odaiba, Japan, in June 2018 — pulls perpetual queues and became the most visited single-artist museum in the world just 12 months in.

But even if you haven't managed to wrangle a trip to Tokyo, you'll still have the chance to get swept up in some Teamlab magic, as the artist assembly brings its new exhibition Reversible Rotation to town for the Melbourne International Arts Festival. Taking over Melbourne CBD's Tolarno Galleries from October 5 to November 2, the boundary-pushing installation features four imaginative digital screen works, designed to make you reconsider the concept of space and the relationship between humans and nature. Here's what you'll see if you head along:


Teamlab, Waves of Light (2018) by Kate Shanasy


One for all the water babies out there, Waves Of Light is a continuous loop work, created in 3D then turned into an artwork that exists in what Teamlab calls "ultrasubjective space". It captures the movement of waves through continuously shifting water, the vision carefully constructed after calculating the behaviour and interactions of hundreds of thousands of water particles. The result is an immersive viewing experience, designed, as most of Teamlab's work is, to break down the boundaries between humans and nature. The shimmering artwork reflects on premodern Japanese paintings and their common use of line series to depict a sense of life in oceans and rivers.


From left to right: Teamlab, Reversible Rotation — Cold Light (2019) and Reversible Rotation — Black in White (2019) by Kate Shanasy


Both of these captivating 2019 works are again made using 3D reconstructions that are then worked into 'flat' artworks. At the heart of each is a piece of Japanese 'sho' or calligraphy, drawn in space rather than on a flat surface to create what's known as "spacial calligraphy". The 3D imaging captures each brush stroke's power, depth and speed, then the final artwork appears in constant rotation. But be prepared for some trippy viewing — the sho can look as if it's rotating in different directions. Experience it through the moody scrawl of Reversible Rotation — Black in White, and again slightly differently for the more recent piece, Reversible Rotation — Cold Light. The latter is showing for the first time ever at this exhibition.


Teamlab, Enso — Cold Light (2018) by Kate Shanasy


Enso – Cold Light sees Teamlab getting crafty with spacial calligraphy once again, this time paying homage to 'enso', the Zen practice of drawing a circle using just a single brush stroke. This particular stroke is suspended in space, though audiences will get to see it captured from various viewpoints, as they're displayed in rotation on-screen. Thought to represent enlightenment, truth, the entirety of the universe, and equality, the enso is also left open to interpretation, capturing the heart and mind of each viewer in a slightly different way.


Catch Reversible Rotation at Tolarno Galleries, Level 4, 104 Exhibition Street, Melbourne until Saturday, November 2. It's showing as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

Images: Kate Shanasy

Published on October 07, 2019 by Libby Curran
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